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Refinement: AWERB members

Pair of ferrets © APHA

Refinement is any measure that will reduce suffering or improve welfare; this not only applies to scientific procedures, but to all aspects of an animal’s  lifetime experience including  housing, transport, husbandry procedures, the animal’s environment, welfare assessment, humane endpoints and methods of humane killing.  Promoting refinement within an establishment is included in several of the UK AWERB’s tasks, for example:

  • advising staff on matters related to the welfare of the animals, in relation to their acquisition, accommodation, care and use;
  • advising on the application of the 3Rs, keeping staff informed of relevant technical and scientific developments;
  • following the development and outcome (retrospective review) of projects carried out in the establishment, taking into account the effect on the animals used; and to identify and advise on elements that could further contribute to the 3Rs.

In order to successfully deliver refinement, it is necessary to:

  • identify all potential sources of suffering and the impact of each on the animals throughout their lives (i.e. to identify the ‘harms’ or ‘adverse effects’ experienced by the animals)
  • provide animal housing, husbandry and care that minimises stress and promotes wellbeing 
  • design experiments and procedures so that harms are avoided or minimised as far as possible
  • ensure that any pain, suffering or distress is promptly recognised, assessed, and alleviated

This requires that: 

  • the staff who use and care for the animals are appropriately trained and experienced in recognising ‘normal’ animals, and identifying those experiencing adverse effects 
  • procedures for observing, assessing and monitoring animals are developed and agreed in advance of studies
  • the steps to be taken to relieve or reduce any suffering, including humane endpoints , are clear and agreed by all involved before procedures are started 
  • all staff understand who has responsibility for implementing each of these actions

The AWERB or AWB can recognise and reward staff when they have successfully introduced refinements. It can also encourage staff to share and publish any 3Rs related advances and technology whenever possible.

Two useful guidance documents for AWERB and AWB members are the RSPCA Lay Members’ Handbook (PDF 6,742KB) and the RSPCA/LASA Guiding Principles on good practice for AWERBs (PDF 1.41MB). Both give useful advice on how AWERB or AWB members can promote the implementation and dissemination of refinements.  Although the Guiding Principles are written for UK AWERBs, many of them are also useful for AWBs and ethics or animals care and use committees operating worldwide.  The Lay Members’ Handbook is specifically intended for an international audience.

For further information about refinement see the Societies, Organisations, User Groups and Journals page - your facility, including the AWERB and especially your Named Information Officer, should have access to relevant  entries on the list.

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